John wieners

John Wieners (1934-2002). Courtesy the Allen Ginsberg Project.

John Joseph Wieners (January 6, 1934 - March 1, 2002) was an American poet.[1]



Wieners was born in Milton, Massachusetts.

He attended St. Gregory Elementary School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and Boston College High School. From 1950 to 1954 he studied at Boston College, where he earned an A.B.

In 1954 Wieners heard Charles Olson read at the Charles Street Meeting House on Beacon Hill, Boston, during Hurricane Hazel. He decided to enroll at Black Mountain College where he studied under Olson and Robert Duncan from 1955 to 1956.

He then worked as an actor and stage manager at the Poet’s Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and began to edit Measure, releasing three issues over the next several years.


From 1958 to 1960 Wieners lived in San Francisco, California and actively participated in the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. The Hotel Wentley Poems was published in 1958, when Wieners was twenty-four.

Wieners returned to Boston in 1960 and was committed to a psychiatric hospital. In 1961, he moved to New York City and worked as an assistant bookkeeper at Eighth Street Books in 1962-1963, living on the Lower East Side with Herbert Huncke. He went back to Boston in 1963, employed as a subscriptions editor for Jordan Marsh department stores until 1965. Wieners’ 2nd book, Ace of Pentacles, was published in 1964.

In 1965, after traveling with Olson to the Spoleto Festival and the Berkeley Poetry Conference, he enrolled in the Graduate Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He worked as a teaching fellow under Olson, then as an endowed Chair of Poetics,[2] staying until 1967, with Pressed Wafer coming out the same year. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[3] In the spring of 1969, Wieners was again institutionalized, and wrote Asylum Poems.

Nerves was released in 1970, containing work from 1966 to 1970. In the early 1970s, Wieners became active in education and publishing cooperatives, political action committees, and the gay liberation movement.[4] He also moved into an apartment at 44 Joy Street on Beacon Hill, where he lived for the next thirty years.

In 1975, Wieners published Behind the State Capitol; or, Cincinnati Pike, a magnum opus of “Cinema decoupages; verses, abbreviated prose insights.” For the next 10 years, he published rarely and remained largely out of the public eye. In 1985, he was a Guggenheim Fellow.

Later lifeEdit

Black Sparrow Press released 2 collections edited by Raymond Foye: Selected Poems, 1958-1984 and Cultural Affairs in Boston, in 1986 and 1988 respectively. A previously unpublished journal by Wieners came out in 1996, entitled The Journal of John Wieners is to be called 707 Scott Street for Billie Holliday 1959, documenting his life in San Francisco around the time of The Hotel Wentley Poems.

At the Guggenheim Museum in 1999, Wieners gave a public reading, celebrating an exhibit by painter Francesco Clemente. A collaboration between the 2, Broken Women, was also published.

Wieners died on March 1, 2002 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, having collapsed a few days previously after an evening attending a party with his friend and publisher Charley Shively. Kidnap Notes Next, a collection of poems and journal entries edited by Jim Dunn, was published posthumously in 2002.

A Book of Prophecies was published in 2007 from Bootstrap Press. The manuscript was discovered in the Kent State University archive's collection by poet Michael Carr. It was a journal written by Wieners in 1971, and opens with a poem titled 2007.



  • The Hotel Wentley Poems. San Francisco: Auerhahn Press, 1958
    • The Hotel Wentley Poems: Original versions. San Francisco: Dave Haselwood Books, 1965,
  • Ace of Pentacles. New York: James F. Carr & Robert A. Wilson, 1964.
  • Chinoiserie. San Francisco: Dave Haselwood Books, 1965,
  • Pressed Wafer. Buffalo, NY: Gallery Upstairs Press, 1967.
  • Unhired. Mt. Horeb, WI: Perishable Press, 1968.
  • Asylum Poems. New York : Angel Hair Books, 1969.
  • Youth. New York: Phoenix Book Shop, 1970.
  • Invitation. Santa Barbara, CA: Unicorn Press, 1970.
  • Idyll. Santa Barbara, CA: Unicorn Press, 1970.
  • Nerves. London: Cape Goliard, 1971.
  • Woman. Canton, NY: Institute of Further Studies, 1972.
  • Playboy. Boston: Good Gay Poets, 1972.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Grossman, 1972.
  • God is the Organ of Novelty. Cambridge, MA: Pomegranate Press, 1973.
  • Hotels. New York: Angel Hair Books, 1974.
  • Behind the State Capitol; or, Cincinnati Pike : a collection of poetry. Boston: Good Gay Press, 1975.
  • A Superficial Estimation. Madras & New York: Hanuman Books, 1986.
  • Selected Poems, 1958-1984 (edited by Raymond Foye). Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow, 1986.
  • Charity Balls: A poem. San Francisco: Arion Press, 1988.
  • Supplication: Selected poems (edited by Joshua Beckman, C.A. Conrad, & Robert Dewhurst). Seattle, WA: Wave Books, 2015.


  • Conjugal Contraries & Quart. Madras & New York: Hanuman Books, 1987.

Collected editionsEdit

  • Cultural Affairs in Boston: Poetry & prose, 1956-1985 (edited by Raymond Foye). Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow, 1988.

Letters and journalsEdit

  • The Journal of John Wieners is to be called 707 Scott Street for Billie Holiday, 1959. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon, 1996.
  • Kidnap Notes Next: Selected notebook entries, 1988-1999. Boston: Pressed Wafer, 2002.
  • A Book of Prophecies (edited by Michael Carr & Jim Dunn). Lowell, MA: Bootstrap Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9779975-4-1
  • A New Book from Rome. Lowell, MA: Bootstrap Press, 2010.
  • "The Sea under the House": The selected correspondence of John Wieners and Charles Olson (edited by Michael Seth Stewart). New York: Center for the Humanities, Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2012.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

Audio / video Edit

A poem for vipers by John Wieners

A poem for vipers by John Wieners

5 Poems by John Wieners

5 Poems by John Wieners

  • The Poetry of John Wieners. New York: J. Norton, [197-?][5]
  • John Wieners in Conversation with Robert Duncan: Outtakes from the NET film series 'USA: poetry' (VHS). San Franciscio, CA: American Poetry Archive, The Poetry Center, SFSU, 1965.[5]

See alsoEdit




  1. Pamela Petro, "The Hipster of Joy Street" Jacket 21, February 2003.
  2. Jackson, Bruce (1999-02-26). "Buffalo English: Literary Glory Days at UB.". Buffalo Beat. Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  3. “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  4. "John Wieners Papers". University of Delaware Special Collections Department. September, 1999. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Search results = au:John Wieners, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 25, 2015.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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